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Baseball Welcomes Red-Hot Kennesaw State On Tuesday

March 7, 2011

By Matt Winkeljohn

Sting Daily

Kennesaw State has been a pain in Georgia Tech’s side this winter, but here’s a hunch that says when the Owls visit Russ Chandler Stadium today, they’re going to encounter a different vibe than their men’s basketball and the softball teams. This figures to go beyond the fact that the first two games, both KSU wins, were on KSU’s turf.

Tech’s baseball team has re-calibrated, and quickly, after an uneven start. Quite fresh off a three-game sweep of Rutgers, coach Danny Hall has tweaked his lineup in a few ways. Notably, freshman Mott Hyde – who had a couple ill-timed and costly errors at shortstop in the early going – has moved to second base as junior Jacob Esch has switched places with him.

The Jackets are hitting, and their pitching has tightened up.

With a team ERA of 2.17, a .222 batting average against, 49 walks allowed along with 120 strikeouts in 107.2 innings, there are some downright filthy numbers cooking. Add a .337 batting average on offense, and special ingredients are in place. Tech has outscored opponents 84-47.

The reason the Jackets are a modest 8-4 has to do largely with some of those defensive miscues in the first several games. Of the 46 runs the Jackets have allowed, a whopping 21 were unearned. By contrast, Tech’s opponents have allowed a much more benign nine unearned runs.

Kennesaw State won’t see Mark Pope; he’s the Jackets’ Friday starter, which is to say he’s Tech’s ace. He’s sure pitching like it. After throwing a four-hit, complete-game shutout against Rutgers Friday, he’s 3-0 with an ERA of 0.42. Pope hasn’t allowed a run in 16.3 consecutive innings.

In Sunday’s win over Rutgers, four Jackets – Daniel Palka, Zane Evans, Jake Davies and DeAndre Smelter — had three hits each.

The Owls are riding high as well.

They’re 9-2, and coming off a three-game sweep of Campbell to open conference play. Their catcher, sophomore Ronnie Freeman, has the nation’s longest hitting streak at 40 games. He’s hitting .400, and was a member of multiple Freshman All-America first or second teams.

Many Tech players are familiar with a slew of KSU players; they’ve been high school and summer teammates on many occasions. Though Tech has no players on the roster from Brookwood High, where Freeman sent to school, several players with Gwinnett County connections know well of him.

It’s about time Tech muck’s up Kennesaw State’s works, don’t you think?

Game time is 6 p.m.

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